This is the third post in our series Caring for Your Handknits.
Post 1: Planning for the Future
Post 2: Washing
In the last post, we went over how to wash your garments using a non-rinse wool wash. But what if your item is too delicate to withstand water? You can steam your item. Steaming does not clean an item the way a soak in water does, but it does breathe new life into an item that is looking a little worn or bedraggled. Steaming will plump up the stitches and re-shape an item.
Warning: Please follow the directions and settings that come with your steam iron.
You will need an iron that has a steam function, an iron-safe surface and a piece of colorfast thin cotton (an undyed batiste is thin enough for the steam to penetrate). If the item needs to be a particular shape or measurement, like a lace shawl, you will need rust-proof T-pins to hold the item in place.
Step 1: Place the item to be steamed on the iron-safe surface. Smooth out any wrinkles in the fabric. If it needs to be pinned, now is the time to do it. Once the item is in place, cover it with the cotton fabric. Okay, so I forgot my piece of cotton, but the point of the fabric is to keep you from planting the iron directly on top of the yarn.
Step 2: Let the iron heat until it steams when you turn it to face the fabric. I tend to steam a little bit of the fabric that is not over my knitted item first, just to make sure it is hot enough. Being careful to not touch the fabric with the iron, slowly move the iron over the surface of the item. I will steam a section for a little bit, but once my hand starts getting heated from the steam (be careful of steam burns!), I’ll set the iron aside and lift the cotton to check on the item.
Step 3: Once the whole item has been steamed and the stitches have started to relax, let the item sit until it is dry. Steaming still puts a little bit of moisture into the item and in order for the item to hold the shaping, it needs to dry in that shape.
Once the item is dry, you can remove the pins and store the item. If I’m in a hurry to block pieces for seaming, I’ll steam them, but I prefer to wet block. If I’m trying to clean dirt and grime off, I definitely wet block – the non-rinse wool washes pick up the dirt and keep it out of the fabric. Steaming does not remove the dirt from a piece, but merely freshens the stitches.